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Popular Fitness Products That Became Obsolete

Obsolete fitness products.
Obsolete fitness products.

Progress is relentless. Something that's considered an essential part of life today may not even exist tomorrow. Growing up, my family used maps to find our way around, paid for groceries with a check and rented movies from our local video store. Smartphones killed paper maps, credit cards replaced checks, and online streaming wiped out the video store.

Better, faster and cheaper options are making all sorts of things obsolete, and fitness products are no exception. Here are three things that were wildly popular 20 years ago but today have virtually disappeared.

Printed Diet Books. If you wanted to drop a few pounds, the primary source of information was a book. You went to a bookstore (remember those?) and looked through the diet and weight loss section. Fortunes were made by authors who figured out the right hook to capture the public's attention.

All that started to change as e-book readers became popular. Digital books have several advantages over paper, including instant delivery for the reader and low production and distribution costs for the publisher. Videos and interactive lessons can be included to provide more clarity. Smartphones and computer tablets have accelerated the move to digital.

Today the idea of sitting down and reading an entire diet book, even a digital one, is going away. Information is posted for free on social media, and the content is paid for by advertisers. Essential ideas are condensed into bite-sized nuggets. Diet tips are now more likely to be shared than full books.

This has led to a massive increase in the amount of dietary information and a decrease in the quality. Avoid the misleading advice. Look for articles or posts that include links to clinical studies that back up what you're being told.

DVD Workouts. It started when the price of video cassette recorders (VCRs) dropped low enough that the average person could afford one. Combine that with late-night infomercials pitching exercise tapes, and suddenly programs like the Jane Fonda Workout became bestsellers.

As VCR's were replaced by DVD players, the marketers switched formats. Instead of a VHS tape, they sent you a DVD. But think about it, when was the last time you bought a DVD?

Today it's all about getting what you want on demand. Thousands of workouts are posted online that you can stream for free. You no longer need expensive cameras or a huge production studio to share your favorite routines. Fitness trainers and social media stars post new content hourly.

But even free, on-demand, pre-recorded programs are being replaced. The future belongs to three types of online workouts. The first is led by a live instructor, streaming out to hundreds or even thousands of viewers in real-time. Companies like Peloton use this model extremely effectively.

The second are highly individualized workouts created by personal trainers. Programs are designed, and the trainers interact with you for live, one-on-one coaching.

The third option is a personal workout created by artificial intelligence (AI). Computers can analyze millions of workouts to build a routine optimized for your specific goals and abilities. At some point in the future, the AI will watch how you move through the camera and offer corrections and tips on proper form.

Dedicated Fitness Trackers. One of the original fitness trackers was a device called a pedometer. You attached it to your belt, and it would measure how many steps you took in a day. That was enhanced by companies like Fitbit, who also started to measure your heart rate, blood pressure and calculated how many calories you burned in a day.

When smartphones started offering those same features, sales of dedicated fitness trackers collapsed. Why pay a hundred dollars or more for a specialized device when you can just download an app for a couple of bucks into the phone you already own?

Now there are add-ons for smartphones that can function as an EKG machine, measure the oxygen in your body and provide hourly reminders to stand up and move. As the prices for these measuring devices drop, you'll see them incorporated into smartwatches and eyewear.

The main thing that hasn't changed? You've still got to show up and do the work to see the results. They haven't invented a machine or app to do that for you... yet.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 2/5/2021